Henningson Engineering Company in the 1920s

History

A lot can change in 100 years. Technologies improve, communities evolve, people come and go. But to withstand a century of disruptions, you must be built on a solid foundation. At HDR, that foundation has always been our communities.

When H.H. Henningson founded the Henningson Engineering Company in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1917, his focus wasn’t on mega projects or global expansion. It was on helping rural Midwest towns adapt to a changing world. He brought power to the plains and water treatment systems where it was needed most.

In his 35-year career, Henningson took pride in attending more than 4,000 city council meetings spanning Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Colorado. He would drive all night to those meetings, so the public could see the man who truly cared about their community. And he won their trust — and work — because of it.

It was Henningson’s work ethic and commitment to the community that fuelled the company’s growth. It did so organically at first. The Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s opened new opportunities, and it brought with it a young engineer named Willard Richardson, who would later become the “R” in HDR.

In 1940, Chuck Durham, the “D”, joined the firm. Over the next decade, Henningson Engineering would reach new heights, outgrowing its office space three times between 1937 and 1953. It was around then that the firm became Henningson, Durham and Richardson, Inc. — and later HDR — with Durham serving as president and Richardson as secretary-treasurer.

With Durham at the helm, innovation followed. Some of the firm’s engineers were former military pilots, and Durham saw an advantage. The company took to the air, using its own fleet of aeroplanes to serve clients in other regions. We quickly built a reputation as a leading municipal engineering firm and began to expand geographically, opening our first branch office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1957.

In 1960, we won our first international job — a $50 million dam and irrigation project in the Guadarranque and Palmones River Valleys in southern Spain — and by the early 1980s, we were operating in 21 U.S. offices with 1,100 employees. In 1996, we instituted a broad-based employee-ownership model which has supercharged our growth over the last 20 years.

Today, we’re nearly 10,000 employees strong with more than 225 offices around the globe. And while this means we can bring an impressive breadth and depth of services to our clients, it’s our commitment to the place we call home that makes us special. Our employees strive to make a difference every day, both in their day jobs and as community volunteers.

While we can’t say what our future holds, we do know this: we’ll be right there with our clients, collaborating and creating in the only way we know how — together.

We’re proud to be celebrating an amazing 100-year history.

Throughout 2017, we’ll be sharing the stories of how we got here — and where we’re going.